Toronto Region Board of Trade Proposes plan to tackle Ontario’s housing crisis

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The City of Toronto has started taking promising action on issues related to the missing middle, but the need for increased density and housing options is important across Ontario. This requires political leadership and courage at the provincial level to enable more affordable and vibrant communities.

Ontario is growing. Our population is expected to increase to over 20 million people by 2046, a 36% increase from 2020, with the GTA expected to see the fastest rate of growth.  All of these new people will need somewhere to live, putting additional pressure on the already stretched housing supply.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade in a report is proposing a provincial framework to permit more missing middle options as-of-right across the province. A provincial approach ensures greater consistency across regions and helps break the logjam of local politics preventing housing development. Adopting this framework will help our cities become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

“If Ontario allowed for the creation of more “missing middle” housing, we could dramatically increase our capacity to provide new homes while also offering a wider range of housing options to residents. It’s an easy solution that makes use of existing infrastructure, which is why it is imperative that we prioritize making this change,” Jan De Silva, President & CEO, Toronto Region Board of Trade, said.

Why Addressing Missing Middle Housing Matters:

         Maximizing Existing Infrastructure:

There is significant opportunity to subdivide large existing houses into multiple family-sized units, which can allow homeowners to right-size their unit while staying in place.

It also allows more people to use existing infrastructure like schools, transit and roads. This minimizes costs for individuals and governments while also increasing local customers for small businesses.

         Providing Housing Options

Family types and needs are more diverse than can be easily accommodated in single detached homes. A wider range of housing options in existing and new neighbourhoods will help ensure that multi-generational households, solo households, and other family configurations can be better served.

         Reducing Emissions

Missing middle housing can allow people to live closer to where they work, making more efficient use of built-up land and reducing the need for long car commutes. Denser buildings also reduce the carbon footprint of each household, and are easier to retrofit or build to net-zero standards.

         Addressing Systemic Racism

Exclusionary zoning laws have exacerbated racial inequities.

Marginalized communities are also more likely to face pressures from gentrification, including displacement. Missing middle solutions can help distribute development pressure and increase diversity in existing neighborhoods while providing opportunities for generational wealth creation.

         Helping All Communities

With housing prices spiking across the province, all communities have a role in increasing housing affordability and availability.

Missing middle solutions are compatible with existing residential neighborhoods and provide valuable options for a wider range of needs and preferences. Provincial standards will increase predictability and facilitate additional projects.

 

The report maps out five actions that the Ontario Government can take to increase housing affordability:

 

1-    End Exclusionary Zoning

Through planning reforms, eliminate ‘Yellowbelts’ that only permit single-unit homes. Enable as-of-right permissions for at least four units in a building in all residentially zoned areas, and consider designating a higher baseline (e.g. eight units and/or four to five storeys) for properties near transit stations.

2-     Establish Standards

To ensure that municipalities do not use other tools to prevent missing middle housing, the provincial government should set minimum standards for building setbacks, lot sizes, parking requirements, front doors, height, building depth, landscaping, and floor space index.

3-     Broad Geographic Reach

These changes should apply to all medium (30,000+) and large (100,000+) municipalities across Ontario, although different standards could apply for each category. This would help avoid inflating land values in a smaller targeted area, while also addressing affordability issues across the province. Municipalities would have the opportunity to customize regulations while meeting or exceeding the minimum standards.

4-    Moderate Development Charges

Currently, many municipalities charge higher development charges for missing-middle buildings than for single-unit homes, even though the number of people living at the property may not be any greater than the house had historically accommodated – creating a barrier to missing middle development. The Province should require that development charges and fees for missing-middle buildings up to four units match the charges and fees for single-unit homes.

         5 Create Affordable Ownership Opportunities

 

Missing middle housing can provide more affordable ownership for individuals and families, helping to broaden opportunities to build wealth. The provincial government should continue working to support co-ownership, shared ownership and community land trusts, while introducing strata ownership tools (i.e. a ‘condo-lite’ structure).

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